Infrared Roofing Scans: The Roofing Maintenance Tech You Didn’t Know About

image comparing building to infrared scan of building

The absolute best way to keep your roof healthy and save yourself the undue stress of emergency repairs is to implement a routine preventive maintenance regimen. A very high standard of predictive maintenance and/or repair for your structure is a routine thermography report, which can alert your roofing professional team to potential areas of wet roof insulation. To get into the nitty-gritty of how thermal scanning works, our team spoke to Brian Jastrow, founder of IRIS- Infrared Imaging Solutions, about how thermography scanning works. With over 20 years of experience and over 15,000 thermal scans done since 2001, he’s giving us the inside scoop on thermography and how important it is as a roofing solution.

What is Infrared Thermal Scanning? 

Infrared thermal scanning isn’t actually as new as we think it is. The technology was invented in the 1960s in Sweden and was first used in roofing in the mid-1970s there. There have been significant changes in the last fifty years, and thermography scanning has come a long way. Thermal imaging is currently used in anything from medical equipment and testing to electronics, and of course, roofing.  According to Jastrow, “We can now actually use a drone (DJI Drone Matrice 300 with a 600,000 MP camera) to scan roofs that are over 250,000 square feet, which in the past would have taken triple the time.”

How Is Thermal Scanning done? 

Infrared thermal scanning is used to find anomalies within roofing membranes or other roofing components.  During the day, the roof assembly heats up due to solar loading and cools off at night. However, wet roof areas cool 7 times slower than dry areas. Thermal cameras can detect these changes within 0.10 of a degree Celsius, alerting you to possible issues that you may not be visually able to see on your roof.

What Happens If My Report Has Anomalies? 

If your report shows any anomalies within the membrane, we will follow up with non-destructive moisture probing to ensure the highest confidence in the results. According to IRIS:

“There is much stronger confidence in the result when thermal anomalies are confirmed with a moisture probe. This avoids false-positive readings or a source of heat inside the building that could give way to a thermal anomaly. Before starting any repairs, we always recommend confirming with a moisture probe.”

Example of infrared thermal imaging on roof where soiled insulation was found.

infrared thermal scan with anomalies

Diagram showing roof insulation damage and moisture probe confirmation.

How It Works To Maintain Your Roof

Generally, we recommend thermographic imaging for roofs that are over 10 years old or ones that have greater exposure to high traffic from various trade contractors.  Scanning should be repeated every 12-24 months based on specific risk factors. When we can identify issues within the roof assembly, repairs are infinitely smaller, cheaper and easier, and are less likely to grow and damage the surrounding membrane materials.

Types of Membranes Suitable For Roof Imaging

Unfortunately, not all roofing assemblies are good candidates for infrared thermal imaging. Built-up roofing membranes (3, 4, and 5 ply systems), are a great candidate, as well as 2 ply SBS modified bitumen membranes and single-ply TPO, PVC, and EPDM membranes. Roofing systems that are inverted, heavily ballasted, foil-faced insulation assemblies, green roofs, concrete, or terrace roofs are not good candidates for this kind of maintenance.

Should You Invest In Thermal Imaging For Your Roof? 

If your roof qualifies, then having infrared thermal imaging done is highly recommended in order to keep your roof performing at its peak. Many insurance companies will offer a break for property managers who include this kind of maintenance item, and the scan itself is cost-effective and requires no downtime. Unfortunately, though, there are certain limitations when it comes to this kind of imaging, the most important being outside temperatures, weather conditions, and any ponding water on the roof.

Thinking about all of the elements that go into roofing maintenance can be stressful, but that’s why we provide comprehensive maintenance plans so that you can rest easy knowing that your roof is at its healthiest. If you’d like to learn more about our maintenance plans, infrared thermal imaging, or would just like to chat about your roof, click here to contact us, we’re here to help!